File-Sharing Site Sues Universal Music Group over takedown

You read that right – It’s the bizzarro world edition of the copyright suits - a file-sharing site suing a record company.

The file-sharing site in question is Megaupload. It created a snappy promotional video for its site featuring will.i.am, Kayne West, Kim Kardashian, Serena Williams, and Snoop Dogg. Macy Gray sang the original score along with a half dozen other artists. The music created for the add was original and kinda great. And it worked. The ad went viral.

 

Then the story gets weird. Universal Music Group (UMG) contacted YouTube with a takedown notice. At first, most assumed UMG was claiming that the work infringed on a UMG copywrite. And down came the song.


Thing was, UMG doesn't have a copyright to any of the material. And still doesn’t. Megaupload created the song and the video. The artists stood by the file-sharing. Megaupload contacted UMG and got nowhere. So instead, they talked to their lawyers and that's how a file-sharing site ended up suing a major record label.

Late last night, UMG responded. And the story is getting even stranger. Universal Music Group said in a court filing that it has a deal with Google that allows it take down not just copyrighted material appearing on Youtube, it can also ask YouTube to remove other videos it doesn’t like. It's not clear form the Universal public filings exactly when it would have these rights, but it alludes to them in a letter to Youtubes lawyers.
 
Here’s some of the legalese:

Your letter could be read to suggest that UMG's rights to use the YouTube "Content Management System" with respect to certain user-posted videos are limited to instances in which UMG asserts a claim that a user-posted video contains material that infringes a UMG copyright. As you know, UMG's rights in this regard are not limited to copyright infringement, as set forth more completely in the March 31, 2009 Video License Agreement for UGC Video Service Providers, including without limitation Paragraphs 1(b) and 1(g) thereof.

 

Only Google and UMG know what their contract actually says, but it’s intriguing. Does Universal Music Group have the right to ask Google to remove videos that mention or promote sites they believe promote piracy? What exactly do the paragrpahs referenced in that letter say?

In the meantime the Megaupload video is back up on Youtube and you can check it out here:
 

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.

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